The owner of a large country house in the Camel Valley, Cornwall has been ordered to pay £3,000 in fines and costs for causing silt to enter a river while carrying out work on an ornamental lake

The case was brought by the Environment Agency.

At a trial last year John Drake of Higher Tregawne, Withiel near Bodmin was fined £1,000 after being convicted of obstructing two Agency officers by threatening to set his dogs on them. At a second trial Drake was also found guilty of causing silt to enter a tributary of the River Camel, an offence under Section 90 of the Water Resources Act 1991.

On August 30, 2007 the Agency officers visited the River Ruthern after members of the public reported it was heavily discoloured. Officers traced the discolouration upstream to a lake at Higher Tregawne. A retaining wall had been removed and a significant amount of mud and silt appeared to have been washed into the river.

Evidence of suspended solids being carried downstream included ‘tide’ marks, ‘splattering’ on vegetation and debris on the riverbed. The channel upstream of the lake was clear of any deposits.

The works on the lake were undertaken without the permission of the Environment Agency. Engineering or maintenance work carried out close to a watercourse requires consent from the Agency. The silt discoloured a four kilometre stretch of the Ruthern to the point where it joins the River Camel.

Drake, a chartered surveyor who farms at Higher Tregawne, denied causing the incident and blamed the high levels of suspended solids on other sources. He insisted he knew the appropriate measures to take to prevent any adverse impact on the river.

‘Material dredged from lakes and ponds is potentially harmful to riverlife, especially when it is released in large quantities as happened in this case. Fish are especially sensitive to high concentrations of suspended solids. The defendant’s threatening and unhelpful behaviour didn’t help our investigation. Landowners should always obtain the Agency’s consent before carrying works in or alongside a watercourse, ’ said Malcolm Newton for the Environment Agency.

Yesterday (November 2) John Drake returned to court for sentencing after the Environment Agency successfully challenged in the High Court an earlier ruling made at the original trial. He was fined £985 and ordered to pay £2,000 costs for, on or around August 30, 2007, allowing silt to be carried downstream from a lake at Higher Tregawne, Withiel near Bodmin. He was also ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.